After dinner the five children were sent upstairs by themselves with strict orders to pack only what they would need. Edward stomped upstairs still upset about all the news. He didn’t understand why on earth he would have to go to his aunt and uncle’s house. And now was the worst time to go, with a deadly virus infecting the world. Laura meanwhile was sitting at her desk going through the test papers she would take with her to practise for her A-levels that she needed to do in a few years time. She had been anxious about them for years, how she regretted not having argued it out at the dinner table as a protest she would be different from Kate who had only started properly thinking about them this year...
Unlike the others, Michael was hopping about in his room, excited to finally be able to see his Aunt and Uncle again. He was going to pack some presents for them too and couldn’t wait to get into the car the next day. Ivy didn’t care about what her parents had just said; she just wanted to leave and be by herself. They could go to the countryside; she didn't care.
The next morning the Llandy family were sitting inside their old 7-seater with about as many suitcases as they owned. The doors were covered in cuts and bruises and the colour changed from black to dark grey. Edward was moaning that he wasn’t going to be able to play his favourite video game as his mother had packed all their electrical items into another bag they couldn’t reach. She had claimed that they needed some time off their electric devices so they could enjoy the countryside they were going to drive through. All of them hated the idea.
“Why do we have to watch the boring cows and sheep? No one wants to watch those annoying animals for 3 HOURS!” Edward exclaimed.
“Not that I would ever disagree with you but why in the world do you think we spend too much time on our electrical devices?” Ivy asked her Mother, staring at the back of her seat, “And why should Kate be allowed her phone and not us?”
“Just because you have an electrical item it doesn’t mean you always have to be on it.” muttered Laura to her younger sister, under her breath.
“I am not constantly on my electric device. Unlike you!” Ivy hissed back.
“Darlings, stop arguing, it was my choice not yours. Kate is an adult and she should be trusted with electronic devices,” Mother broke the argument.
“No buts! I’ve had enough of your arguing otherwise I’ll send you to your Aunt’s and Uncle’s by yourself.”
After a nearly 3 hour drive, the Llandy family finally arrived at an enormous house surrounded by wildflowers. Kate had spent the whole journey talking quietly with Viktor on the phone, which all the others found hilarious. The plants were massively overgrown and vines crawled up the steep walls. The plain extended for miles on end and daffodils and tulips rose from the ground. The grass looked as if it had never been cut and it would brush against your ankles as you passed through.
Ivy jumped out of the car, overjoyed they had finally arrived; for her, the only good thing about being at her aunt’s and uncle’s house was that she could finally see the dogs again - her aunt had two ‘adorable’ Great Danes and Ivy was mad about them. They could get a tad rough sometimes but she knew how to handle Euripides and Penthesilia (whom she secretly called Silly Penny).
The rest of the children were slightly less thrilled. Uncle John was terrific. But Aunt Brunhilde was only kind to her dogs, her husband and Michael, who she had taken a fancy to a few years earlier. However, there were not as many bad things about Aunt Brunhilde as there were good things about the rest of Dandelion Estate.
There was the apple orchard where stood a den they had made a few years earlier and that had resisted, a stream - that had no currents- where you could swim, and the beautiful ballroom where you could dance with dresses from the cobwebby attic. There were the endless corridors, full of interesting bits and bobs from the Llandy family’s ancestors, the four posted feather beds in giant rooms and everything else that made holidays at Dandelion estate bearable.
After their parents had got out, the family dragged their bags up the imposing stone steps where there stood two gigantic wooden doors carved with a woodland scene. Ivy had always had a hidden awe when she saw how skillfully each plant, each animal, each bird was carved. They looked almost real: moving and breathing.
“Me first! Me first!” screamed Michael, dropping his suitcase on Edward’s foot, ”I want to knock first!”
“Ow!” shrieked his older brother.
“I don’t care! Me first!” retaliated the small boy, approaching the doors and knocking onto it as hard as possible.
“SAY SORRY!” ordered Edward threateningly, balling his hands into fists, “And give up! You’re too weak to make a noise on the other side.”
“But you certainly make a racket here, outside,” grumbled Kate, ”Could you just shut up?”
“BOOHOOHOO! Mummy! They’re being mean to me!” cried Michael.
Their mother sighed: “Darling, can I knock? I’m tired after this journey. I want to get some rest, now.”
“NOOOO! I WANT TO KNOCK! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME! BOOHOOHOO!”
“We are certainly listening to you,” replied the father cuttingly, “We can’t not do it. If you want to knock, then get on with it. Like your mum, I need some rest.”
Finally, the doors were flung open and there stood Aunt Brunhilde looking grumpier than ever.
“I heard my poor Michael crying! What happened!? Where is he!?”
“They all ganged up on me! They didn’t let me knock on the door!” whined Michael.
“Oh my poor duckling! Poor you! Even your parents!” their Aunt exclaimed. She turned to the rest of the family, “Oh how could you! Come here my sweet little boy. Do you want a sweetie?”
“YES! YES! Please! Auntie, do you think I’ve grown?”
“And what fine manners! Why, you’ll soon be a gentleman!”
“But Auntie, have I grown?”
Caught off guard, Aunt Brunhilde replied hesitantly:
“Well… of course my darling.”
His four older siblings rolled their eyes and sniggered while Michael beamed. The truth was that Michael had not grown more than a centimeter since they had last seen their Aunt and Uncle. He remained his 1m 23cm and all year he had boiled with jealousy: Kate and Laura were now taller than their mum whilst Ivy was shooting upwards.
“Oh hi Brunhilde! Thanks for the *erm* lovely *cough, cough* welcome!” cried the mother, sarcastically.
“If you’re not happy here, then you’re welcome to leave. I’ll take care of Michael.”
“Brunhilde, Brunhilde! Calm down,” soothed the dad, giving a warning look at the mum, “We’ve travelled up to here for 3 hours and we’re staying. That’s final.”
“Stop bossing me around! This is my house!”
“It is mine as well as yours! You just live in it but I pay too!”
“FINE! Stop paying if you wish just get out of my sight!”
Laura and Ivy exchanged glances. This was going to be a nightmare if it continued like that. They all wished they could stop it but they knew it was hopeless. Their dad was
now puffing out his chest, sign that he was getting madder and madder.
“REMEMBER, BRUNHILDE! REMEMBER THAT I ALSO INHERITED OF THIS ESTATE! REMEMBER IT! YOU CAN’T IGNORE THE WILL! REMEMBER OR HAS YOUR OLD GOAT MIND FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING!”
Aunt Brunhilde turned purple with rage. She looked as though she was about to slap him:
“YOU… YOU… HOW DARE YOU! I… I…”
She was trembling with anger. Her lips were pursed so tight that they were white.
“What is this racket! Will you please calm down!” called their Uncle who had just appeared on the bottom step.
“UNCLE JOHN! Hi!” cried Ivy as she rushed into his arms.
“Hello! Will you stop? I could hear you from the other end of the garden! Brunhilde, welcome your brother’s family in a nice way.”
Aunt Brunhilde just sighed, “You do it John, I’m too tired. I’ve worked all day and now I have a headache.” With a final sigh, she disappeared into the house.
“ Well,” said Uncle John, with a little bow “Welcome back to Dandelion Estate. We hope you have an enjoyable stay. If you have a need for anything, please do not hesitate to contact me or my wife.”
Ivy was the only one who laughed. Mum and Dad were unloading the car, Laura had gone behind the house, Kate was phoning her friend a little further away. Edward didn’t find it funny and Michael was rushing after his aunt for the promised sweets.